Throughout the years, charities have started to implement a more disruptive approach towards their communications campaigns, trying to gain the attention of their audience by using ‘shock methods’. While this can seem like an aggressive strategy, more often than not this is down to the need to stand out from the crowd, and to continually surprise the target market.
With so many hard-hitting news headlines reaching us on daily basis through the media, it has become increasingly more difficult to tug on the heart strings of potential donors and fundraisers. Shock tactics are a simple way to gain cut-through and create an emotional connection with those who are less receptive to softer campaigns. Indeed it does seem that Charity campaigns are much more likely to succeed if there is a ‘shock factor’ or something that motivates the general public to react.
For example, in January this year British explorer Henry Worsley set out to be the first adventurer to cross the Antarctic alone – sadly he never completed his adventure after suffering from organ failure and exhaustion. After the news of his death broke out, his story went viral with public instantly donating to his charity, The Endeavour Fund. -The charity had raised £100,000 just days after his death, the most they had raised that quickly in a long time.
It seems that the element of shock or grief does seem to encourage us to, not only engage, but make a positive action for the charity in question. With that in mind perhaps it is no wonder that Charities are resorting to more shocking campaigns and adverts to grab our attention.
Here are some more examples of controversial charity campaigns and how they effectively caught the public imagination. What you are about to see is extremely powerful and, at times, disturbing:
- ‘Save Syria’s Children’ by Save the Children
This gripping advert engages with the viewers by introducing them to a character they can easily identify with – a young girl Lily, who previously featured in Save the Children’s campaign. Lily powerfully portrayed the conflict in Syria and highlighted how the same situation could easily happen in the UK, bringing a seemingly distant issue into the everyday consciousness of the British public.
The advert has been viewed more than 54.5 million times and leads the way in rankings of most shocking charity campaigns. Save The Children admitted the campaign had a great impact on the public and massively increased their fundraising, even though they also received complaints from the public.
- ‘If you could see yourself’ by This Is Abuse
The anti-rape campaign launched by the Home Office in 2012 was aimed at teenagers aged 13-18, to ‘dispel the myths that can lead to acceptance of rape in relationships’. Minister Lynne Featherstone, who launched the campaign stated: ‘Teenagers are inundated with information about relationships, from their friends, the Internet and TV, so that knowing what’s actually acceptable can be really difficult.’
The video received series of complaints for being too graphic in showing rape, however it also made a huge impact on the public making them discuss the issue and hopefully also achieving its’ purpose in making teenagers confident to stand up to sexual abuse.
- ‘Save the boy’ by St. Johns Ambulance
This emotional video by St. John’s Ambulance is another great example of a charity campaign that created waves in the industry. Picturing a helpless father trying to help his young son who fell from a tree, St. John’s Ambulance used this powerful story to target people who haven’t been trained in first aid. Stating ‘you can be the difference between life and death’ the ad was a result of shocking research which showed a total of 55% of parents didn’t know anything about first aid.
St. John’s Ambulance used this campaign to encourage people to take up the training in order to save lives. This powerful ad also encouraged the viewers to ‘Save the boy for yourself’ engaging with them in an interactive campaign page.
- ‘Have a Break’ by Greenpeace
This shocking TV advert is definitely one of the most graphic campaigns taking on the issue of destroying tropical forests and killing orangutans. Created purposefully to shock and disgust the viewer Greenpeace pictured an office worker who uses a shredding machine and suddenly decides to have a break with Kit Kat. When he opens his Kit Kat bar however it is not the chocolate bar that we see but an orangutan’s finger which the worker proceeds to eat smearing blood all over his mouth.
This very graphic and controversial ad was created by Greenpeace to address Nestle’s policy over palm tree use to protect flora and fauna of the tropical forests. The campaign triggered a great response from the public with 1.5 million views and petition signs leading to Nestle agreeing to Green Peace’s demands.
- ‘Break The Cycle’ by Barnardo’s
Having received over 840 complaints the ‘Break the Cycle’ campaign is definitely another shocking campaign worth mentioning for its’ controversial approach. Looking at child abuse and neglect, Barnardo’s campaign was created to highlight many young people get ‘caught in a cycle of deprivation, neglect and abuse’ which leads them to substance misuse and crime. Barnardo’s defended the campaign saying their work and intervention ‘can break this cycle, but we need the public’s help to do this.’
With viewers exposed to so many controversial charity campaigns at the moment, whether loved or hated, it seems that shock methods do help to achieve their purpose and bring difficult issues to life. Making the public talk about them, means instigating discussion and hopefully giving victims more confidence to ask for help as well as stand up for themselves.